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 Post subject: National Dance Lab
PostPosted: Fri Oct 06, 2000 9:29 pm 
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Note from Stuart: This discussion has straddled different dance styles, so I have moved it to 'Issues' and closed it here.<P><BR> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>A new national initiative to assist eminent choreographers and their collaborators in creative research will be launched in the Bay Area beginning with a two-phased pilot program slated for Fall 2000 and Spring 2001.<P>The National Dance Lab is intended to support national and international artists as they spend time in creative collaboration without the normal pressures brought on by commissions and performances with revenue expectations.<P>As envisioned, parts of this research environment will be open to the public.<BR>This access will provide an opportunity for students, artists, scholars and others to actively experience the creative process.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><BR> <A HREF="http://news.excite.com:80/news/bw/001002/ca-uc-berkeley-extn" TARGET=_blank>http://news.excite.com:80/news/bw/001002/ca-uc-berkeley-extn</A> <P>why do i put this in our MODERN DANCE forum? why, indeed? ....good of you to ask....after all, ought it not to be for all dance, including ballet? will it be? i don't know....but i have my cynicism to rely on!.....please let me be wrong... Image<P><BR><p>[This message has been edited by Stuart Sweeney (edited October 18, 2000).]

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 Post subject: Re: National Dance Lab
PostPosted: Mon Oct 16, 2000 12:36 pm 
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Modern dance began and has continued to evolve in the USA. Modern is also America's foremost contribution to the dance world. Thus it seems fitting to concentrate such projects in modern dance, a uniquely US product---which is sorely underfunded compared to ballet---and which also has much more diversity of style. The Bay Area is an appropriate starting place as San Francisco, America's second dance city, but first in and for modern dance is there. Tell us more.


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 Post subject: Re: National Dance Lab
PostPosted: Mon Oct 16, 2000 3:22 pm 
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grace, it would be a shame if ballet was excluded from this new venture. However, as we have heard elsewhere, the art form facing the major problems and in greatest need of support in the SF area and beyond is modern dance. In the USA, ballet with its social cachet, finds it much easier to raise money by donation.<P>wroginski, I agree about the key role of the USA in modern dance. However, it's probably relevant to bear in mind the contribution of Germany to this form both philosophically and practically through Laban, Wigman and Jooss and others from around 1910 onwards. <p>[This message has been edited by Stuart Sweeney (edited October 16, 2000).]


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 Post subject: Re: National Dance Lab
PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2000 5:58 am 
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that's really funny, you two! Image<P>the reason for my cynicism is my awareness that there are NO funds available in australia for development or research in BALLET. what you are calling 'modern dance' gets all the funds there are. the AICD choreographic award - which simone clifford has just won - was set up by this organisation precisely for this reason. to provide ONE way for BALLET to be supported......<P>in australia there is limited funding available for anything in dance - as elsewhere - but, everything there is, is given over to contemporary dance in the modern style.....<P>hence my jaundiced view. how is ballet to do anything OTHER than die, if it is relegated to the past, by a refusal to recognise that it has anything to offer now and in the future? if we refuse to support (fund) it's development, while happily funding experimental garbage that attracts no audience (don't people matter?), then how is ballet to hold it's own against the rest....<P>rant, rant, rant......<P>it's too big a topic to get into definitively. there are of course the major companies, with government funding, which are 'ballet', so you might not understand my anger...but it IS a problem that no-one is encouraged to choreograph IN BALLET. for example the university programs in australia tend to favour contemporary dance styles; when students choreograph, it is never in ballet. when dancers in companies do choreographic workshops, we tend to get either 'modern' stuff, or bad ballet.....<P>i better stop griping....<P>apparently your situation is different over there...

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 Post subject: Re: National Dance Lab
PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2000 7:24 am 
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grace, I am surprised at the Australian situation. From memory, about 70% of the Arts Council of England dance budget goes on ballet. <P>Of course, here in the UK, much more modern dance is created, primarily because this is a period of much greater creativity in modern dance compared with ballet. However, the conditions under which these modern works are created are usually appalling. When some RB dancers worked with the highly reagrded Sue Davies, they were shocked at the conditions under which these leading modern dancers worked - no showers, cold church halls inviting injury, etc. <P>I suspect that the US situation is similar or worse than in the UK. Thus decent conditions to create work will be a God-send to modern dance professionals who do not have access to the working conditions of SFB etc. Perhaps some US professionals can help us here with direct experience.<P>The question reamins as to why this is a relatively barren period for ballet choreography worldwide. My basic thought is that there are structural problems in ballet itself:<P>- If you study modern dance, it will often be as part of a degree course and choreography will be compulsory. The more gifted students will have lots of opportunities to create work and then, if they wish, go on to do MA specialist courses. <P>- At the time when the students above are starting their courses, most of their ballet peers are finishing their courses and joining companies. Some will have done some choreography, but they will often be the ones who the school believes will not make the very top as dancers. And choreography perhaps needs a more mature perspective, so this age difference is important.<P>- Once in the modern dance sector, although totally cash-strapped, (many dancers have other jobs) professionals will find that creativity is a virtue and dancers are used to learning new works all the time. The ratio of new work in modern to ballet may be (a wild guess) 30:1. Sadly many ballet companies make little time available for budding choreographers to do new work. Two of the leading modern dance choreographers in the UK, Jonathan Burrows and Russell Maliphant started their careers in the RB. But in order to flower as choreographers they had to leave and move into the modern sector. <P>- The ballet choreography greats of the 20th C can all be linked to the dynamism and creativity of Ballets Russes: Fokine, Nijinski, Nijinska, Balanchine, Ashton (via Rambert and de Valois), MacMillan (via de Valois). However, this creative surge sems to have run its course and a new one seems to be required. I've enjoyed work by Bintley, Page, Marston, Tuckett, Hampson and Hart, but no one is saying that they are rivals to the great ones mentioned above. <P>- On the Continent, there are exciting new things in ballet, which may or may not be a way forward. I would not want to say that it was <u>the</u> direction, but Forsythe is certainly <u>an</u> exciting way forward. But some, of course, would not count his work as ballet ('Vertigenous Thrill of Exactitude' apart). <P>To sum up, I do not think that the choreographic crisis in ballet is cash related, but rather a function of its own structures and traditions. The RB have started some good new initiatives to encourage new ballet choreography and I really hope that they bear fruit. <P>I wondered how many topics there are in The Studio concerned at least in part with the teaching and nurturing of student choreographers. Of the 155 topics, there are about 3; 2.5 seem to be modern and 0.5 ballet and that is about Forsythe.<P><p>[This message has been edited by Stuart Sweeney (edited October 17, 2000).]


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 Post subject: Re: National Dance Lab
PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2000 5:11 pm 
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stuart i will not enter into any discussion s to reasons for this statement of yours:<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>The question reamins as to why this is a relatively barren period for ballet choreography worldwide.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>because i emphatically do not believe it to be true.<P>so there! :p<P>it is at moments like this that i really really really wish we had that full set of smileys! Image<P>re THE STUDIO topics: i would be inclined, i think, when such a topic might come up, to PUT it in one of the genre forums, such as this, instead of STUDIO.<P>and i have not started any such topics, myself, because i actually don't really believe in this approach....myself, personally, so i have no interest really in attempting such discussions. <P>what i mean by that, is that there are things we all do (including me) to foster interest in choreography and provide opportunities to do so, but i do not believe myself that this makes much, if any, difference. i believe that this capacity is inborn - yes it may be cultivated - but it cannot be taught....<P>the choreographer WILL emerge, s/he cannot be created.

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 Post subject: Re: National Dance Lab
PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2000 8:35 pm 
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To more or less support Stuart, I believe some of the more thoughtful and provocative works in dance have come from modern dance choreographers. I find that even bold new works in ballet tend to be more entertaining than innovative. This may be the result of the formal education, especially in the history of dance, that modern dancers and choreographers receive.<P>Perhaps some of our professionals would care to comment?


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 Post subject: Re: National Dance Lab
PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2000 9:34 pm 
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In Canada most of the funding for dance still lies with the ballet companies but that doesn't mean that there aren't new choreographers coming out of ballet, the National and Ballet British Columbia seem to be encouraging new work from their members. <P>On the other hand, it seems that many of these choreographers works are initially showcased in festivals that traditionally feature modern dance which the company brass then picks up on and encourages the "talent" within their folds. <P>Modern dance has had to scrape by and make do which has resulted in more people going out to do their own work because if you can't get work in a company as a dancer or a choreographer your options are rather limited. <P>Ballet, traditionally funded by the State in Europe--we can go right back to kings and queens here--has been more formal in its structure. Canadian ballet companies were more pioneering, no state theatres here, but they were still considered more status quo than modern companies (which I fail to understand since they aren't much older than companies like Toronto Dance Theatre, a generation at most).<P>But in the here and now, I question the difference between ballet and modern dance. When Edouard Locke choreographs on ballet dancers, is it modern? Is it pointe shoes that make a dance a ballet? Does ballet only lie within a codified technique? Is it modern dance if its based in a specific technique, Graham, Limon, Cunningham? There are inherent differences in the way ballet and modern dancers train, ballet dancers are using the image of leading from a high centre in the sternum, modern dancers are using the idea of their pelvis guiding them through space. But when a choreographer comes into the room and creates movement is it that person's training or the dancers' training that dictates whether it is modern or ballet? I often catch myself striking movement out of anything I do that might be considered "balletic" and its not because I don't care for ballet, I just don't want to talk with anyone else's vocabulary. That might sound silly, for me it's important to at least make some kind of effort to not repeat what I've seen, it's kind of like telling someone else's jokes at a party. There are other people who do ballet beautifully and still others who enjoy watching it but I have to admit that I'm often bored watching "classical" works. I really liked the physical challenge of dancing ballet better than I've ever liked watching it. Right now I like things that surprise me, anything that throws me for a loop. <P>I agree with Grace that an ability to choreograph "cannot be taught" but in order for dance to grow we need to encourage the development of choreography with more than just festivals for emerging choreograpers to display their work. Le Groupe <A HREF="http://www.legroupe.org" TARGET=_blank>www.legroupe.org</A> is the only dance lab in Canada which is pitiful in a country this size. There needs to be less nitpicking about the style of dance and more places for choreographic growth.<P><p>[This message has been edited by Marie (edited October 17, 2000).]


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 Post subject: Re: National Dance Lab
PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2000 10:21 pm 
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re marie's <P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Right now I like things that surprise me, anything that throws me for a loop. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>i like that feeling too. in my case, the two most striking dance pieces i have seen, in the last year or so, were simone clifford's work for west australian ballet, and compagnie montalvo-hervieu's 'paradis'.<P>just for interest...<P>and this is the website of the australian choreographic centre in canberra (the nation's capital), if anyone is interested in that:<BR> <A HREF="http://sunsite.anu.edu.au/ausdance/artists/companies/choreographic/index.html" TARGET=_blank>http://sunsite.anu.edu.au/ausdance/artists/<BR>companies/choreographic/index.html</A> <P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>its major focus is on professional choreographic research and development. Its program includes Choreographic Fellowships, Residencies and innovative dance performance. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P><p>[This message has been edited by Stuart Sweeney (edited October 18, 2000).]

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 Post subject: Re: National Dance Lab
PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2000 10:23 pm 
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<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Modern dance has had to scrape by and make do which has resulted in more people going out to do their own work because if you can't get work in a company as a dancer or a choreographer your options are rather limited.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>This is so true almost everywhere I think. Is it because modern/contemporary dance is not so well understood? Is it because modern dance is not narrative? It seems like even in ballet, "Swan Lake" sells more tickets than mixed rep programs. But what I don't get is music isn't narrative either and it's even more difficult to "understand" than modern/contemporary dance. But why are orchestras across the world selling more tickets than dance companies?


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 Post subject: Re: National Dance Lab
PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2000 12:29 am 
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Grace, I'm pleased that you do not find this a relatively barren period for ballet choreography world-wide. However, my impression of the views expressed on the various specialist Internet ballet sites is that by far the majority of ballet fans believe that there is little memorable new work to be seen. <P>I'm afraid to say that you would find few UK fans to agree with your optimism. Bintley can be seen as a continuation of the Ashton, Cranko, MacMillan era, but his Edward II and Arthur part I are not in the same league as the MacMillan full length works by a long way. <P>[Ed. by Stuart] Michael Corder describes himself as a classical choreographer, rather than a neo-classical one. His most recent works 'Cinderella', 'Masquerade' and 'Romeo and Juliet' seem rather hollow echoes of an earlier age to this viewer. No one puts him in the class of the greats of the past as far as I know.<P>I'm actually better served than most as I am one of the few ballet fans who often enjoys Ashley Page and his 'Fearful Symmetries' is keeping its place in the RB rep. But it looks as though little of the other new work will be performed for more than one season. I did see a very exciting work made 2 months ago on the RB, but this was 'Symbiote' by Wayne Mc Gregor from the modern dance world. <P>William Tuckett has produced some lovely chamber pieces and Cathy Marston brings a welcome passion and originality to pdd work. I'm keeping my fingers and everything else crossed that these two and others continue to grow. Others would be less optimistic. <P>At a Study Day, Deborah Bull told us that for a long while she lamented the fact her generation of dancers did not have a great choreographer like MacMillan or an Ashton to create work on them. However, her saviour was Forsythe and he is exceptional in my view. <P>This is not the place to debate whether he is ballet or modern, but it is interesting that he commissions work from Jonathan Burrows. There seems to be a lot of new ballet choreography being made in Continental Europe, but I don't know about the quality. The major influences are Forsythe and Kylian, the latter of course from the modern sector.<P>When the major US companies have visited these shores over the past 2 years we have been impressed with the Balanchine and the Robbins, but the newer work has singularly failed to impress, except for contributions from Mark Morris and others from the modern dance world. However, the new work from the US modern companies has usually impressed us.<P>As someone who enjoys a wide range of dance, if I was to list the 6 most consistently successful current UK choreographers, I think that no more than 1 ballet choreographer would appear in the list. In the US I think it would be a similar story and also for Continental Europe. I make that modern 15, ballet 3. If we were to cut that down from 18 to 10 choreographers, then only Forsythe would make it into my list.<P>Grace, I'm keen to know who you see as the current ballet nurtured flag bearers taking ballet forward.<P>Turning to the theme of teaching choreography. Perhaps a comparison can be drawn with composition classes in music. Aaron Copeland studied under a number of teachers, but writes most lovingly about the two years he spent with Nadia Boulanger in Paris. In a similar vein, I heard George Benjamin, a current UK composer talk about the priceless time he spent with Olivier Messaien, who had the knack of drawing out talent from those who composed in a totally different way to his own style. Messaien himself studied composition for many years under Saint-Saens, from memory. <P>While you cannot make a great composer, Copeland, Messaien and others clearly feel that their progress has been significantly enhanced by their study of composition. I see no reason why it should be different in choreography. As I said in my earlier post the Diaghalev choreographers were in the most dynamic arts workshop in the history of almost any art form with the brilliant impresario playing a leading role in their development. Today's successors do not have that benefit. <P>Th traditional ballet view that you can't teach choreography does not seem to be working. I think it would be worthwhile looking at the successful practices in the modern dance sector. In fact, David Bintley has acted as a mentor for some young choreographers. The irony is that they were from a modern/Asian style. The modern dance world realised that Bintley had help to offer to gifted choreographers and put structures in place to make it happen. <P>Marie said:<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR> There needs to be less nitpicking about the style of dance and more places for choreographic growth.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>I agree entirely. Nevertheless, the two styles have radically different structures and I think that lesons can be learned. The ROH 'Outside In' project which resulted in 'Symbiote' could be one successful model for the future. It is good to see some of the £20m pa grant for the ROH spent in this way.<P><p>[This message has been edited by Stuart Sweeney (edited October 18, 2000).]


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 Post subject: Re: National Dance Lab
PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2000 3:05 am 
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frankly i can't be bothered to argue with your strident tone, stuart. i really don't care that much about counting up 'top 5 choreographers', or something like that.<P>i have only got half way thru your post, but i can see the rest changes topic a bit, and i am anxious not to forget what i'm thinking before i respond. that makes too much hard work out of it. <P>so, just before i read on, i will say that the only 2 things that really leapt out at me in the first half of your lecture are the names of both kylian and morris - both of whom i see as people taking ballet forward, whereas you see them as 'from modern dance'.<P>so that's just a different point of view, that i see the whole situation from....<P>now going back to your post, to read the rest, still smarting from your nasty (& innacurate) dismissal of corder! Image

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 Post subject: Re: National Dance Lab
PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2000 3:10 am 
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OK - read the second half, now. and i agree with what you say, but i don't find that you are DISagreeing with me, as you seem to be trying to.<P>i re-iterate that i don't believe you can turn anyone into a choreographer by teaching - or a composer, or a poet, or a novelist, or a painter, etc etc - but you can assist their development of craft, and you can 'enable'. such practices seem to me to be widespread. the one above is an example.

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 Post subject: Re: National Dance Lab
PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2000 4:38 am 
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Sorry you find my tone strident grace, it wasn't intended that way and it still doesn't read that way to me. I will amend the Michael Corder sentence, because it has caused you such offence. <P>I agree that there is very interesting work being done by choreographers such as Morris, Kylian, McGregor etc on ballet companies. However, these are talents that have been developed and nurtured in modern dance structures, which is the main thrust of my argument. <P>I agree about the importance of enabling, which for composers and modern choreographers does include classes. However, my impression is that it happens less in ballet than in most other art forms. And ballet is sufferring as a result.<P>The last time BRB were at Sadler's Wells I ws introduced to one of the male Principles of Sadler's Wells RB, the predecessor to BRB. As we walked back to the station, he said, 'You know there is nothing wrong with the dancers, they're fine. The real problem is the shortage of good new choreography.'<P>Where do others stand on this? Is there a renaissance of ballet nurtured choreographers in the US or Canada? This is one area where I would love to be proved wrong.<P><BR><p>[This message has been edited by Stuart Sweeney (edited October 18, 2000).]


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 Post subject: Re: National Dance Lab
PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2000 6:20 am 
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Oh dear - do I dare to step in here? I think that a choreographer is born but also can benefit from being taught - just as great painters are. <P>Sometimes it is as simple as being given an opportunity. At one time in my teaching I started a once a year "Student Choreographer's Workshop" for my students. Instead of me choreographing for them - they had the opportunity to choreograph for themselves and each other. I gave them some basic insights, some do and don'ts and set them free. Now, I know in the scheme of things this is "small potatoes" but - I was amazed to see the latent talent - that was awaiting an outlet.<P>One of them indeed had exemplary talent and she went on to choreograph for other schools and is now in the Los Angeles area choreographing for all sorts of venues. But, it all started at a humble little Student Choreographer's Workshop that I began. <P>Actually, I don't see a lack of talent - for the most part I see a lack of opportunity.


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